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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sasha family

I'm sure I'm not the first doll collector to think that ebay is dangerous.  I've been looking at Sasha dolls on various sites including ebay for a while.  But had always resisted buying one, though I'm not sure why.  I suppose one of the reasons is that our girls have a large Gotz family now, and adding Sasha dolls to the collection seemed crazy, especially as Sasha dolls are so sought after and often sell for a lot of cash. I saw a Sasha doll a long time ago in a museum but haven't seen one 'face to face' since then.

I love the naturalism of the modern Gotz play doll faces so they seemed good compensation for not having a Sasha doll (of the Trendon or Gotz vintages).  But it didn't stop me being intrigued and eventually in early September I saw a Sasha baby (early 1970s, girl with dark hair) which no one else had bid on and which appealed to me.  I was the only bidder (at the last minute) and won her.

Mabel's ebay photo

A few days later she arrived.  I knew the Sasha babies were small, but was struck by her smallness and slimness, especially compared to modern baby dolls which always seem so chunky and over proportioned. She nestles very nicely in a child's arms and I can see why Sasha Morgenthaler designed her that way.

Baby Mabel came with no clothes (or box) and she was a little grubby, though didn't smell bad.  Her elastic is very slightly loose but she still poses well.  Someone had taken a small chunk out of her fringe once but fortunately not right down to the roots.  I carefully washed her, taking care to not allow any water into her body (using a cotton wipe damped with warm water and the mildest shower gel - Simple range) and carefully washed her hair.  One or two hairs did drop (I was expecting this as some dark haired Sasha dolls have this tendency). Her face paint is fine.

One small yellow knitted jumper we had for another doll fitted Mabel and I knitted her a pair of knickers (she still has no nappy).  I sent off for a pattern which I knitted in 4 ply rather than DK and with smaller needles (it was meant for a 12" baby doll which was a little chunkier than the Sasha baby) and have knitted her an all in one sleep-suit with hood.

A couple of weeks later I saw a dark haired Sasha girl on ebay which appealed to me.  It is funny how many of them I could happily look at and continue the search, but on seeing this particular girl I knew I had to try and purchase her.  It was a long week of watching.  At the last minute another bidder made a bid, but I held my nerve, kept my budget firmly in mind and won her.

Florence's ebay photo

Florence arrived in record time and in beautiful condition.  She had only ever been displayed, so although lacked her box, did come with her leaflet and with her clothes still perfect.  Her hair is glorious - glossy and with the factory curl.  She was the first full sized Sasha girl I had ever held and is a 1980 Sasha Marina.  I bought a pattern for a bolero cardigan (grandmas_patterns) and knitted this for her in fuchsia pink with the picot edges worked in hand spun wool I've had for a long time (from a small collection I'd brought from a South African farm about 25 years ago).
Mabel and Florence join Amelia (Chiltern), Susie (Petalskin Palitoy), Anna (Gotz),
Jakob (Kids N Katz) and Doreen (Petalskin Palitoy) in my doll display

A brown haired boy was next on the wanted list.  Although I like the blond Gregor boys, a dark haired boy was preferred by all the doll collectors in this household, so I kept watching.  A few weeks later a 'buy it now' I'd had my eye on lowered the buy it now price and also gave an option to make an offer, so I offered and it was accepted.  My Gregor came with his box, leaflet and even his football - he is the footballer from the mid 1970s.  I don't think he had even been displayed and is in super condition.  Although all three Sasha dolls are mine, the girls had a hand in their naming (referring to our baby names book!) and we settled for Nicholas James (which was the name my sister would have had if she had been a boy).  He is James for short though.

Nicholas James's ebay photo

A pattern book for baby dolls from 12" - 22" yielded a simple sweater pattern which I adapted (it had shoulder buttons, so I made a back opening instead).  I used two different colours from my collection of hand spun wool.  I'm quite pleased with the results.

Florence's bolero cardigan

Nicholas James in his sweater

Mabel wears her sleep-suit

No more doll collecting for me this year - my doll budget is used up for the time being and my lovely Sasha family looks great and is providing a lot of entertainment.  Almost every night at bedtime when I read a story to my younger daughter she asks for one or other of the Sasha's to hold and play with while she listens. Florence has even been to the theatre and to a concert cradled in my daughter's arms.
Comparing their eyes - NJ has softer brown eyes than Florence

Nicholas James, Mabel and Florence in our garden in their new knitwear

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Meet Matroshka

I've taken photos of doll happenings this year and haven't had the time until now to write about them.  So this story starts on Easter Day.

Once again my girls did an Easter Egg hunt around the garden, this year I planted clues in the eggs and they had to match up questions and answers about Easter.

The completed Easter Quiz
Their prize were Real Easter Eggs (the only commercially produced egg in the UK with the Easter message printed on the box) and a joint gift of a Gotz Matroshka doll.
A Real Easter Egg

It seemed appropriate to give them this particular girl because Russian nested dolls, which always remind me of Easter Eggs, are called Matryoshka dolls. I did suggest they could call her Marie or Maria or Mary, but they decided to keep her exotic name.
 My elder daughter examines the new doll
 Matroshka from the side

She has the same face as my younger daughter's first Gotz doll (Ice Skating) whom she called Samantha.  I like this face better than the more popular 'Sarah/Hannah' Gotz dolls (who are lovely).  Matroshka has long blond hair and an outfit of tartan, faux fur and white jersey fabric which includes a Russian nested doll printed on her white top.  Both my girls were delighted with her.  I'd bought her in TK Maxx earlier last year at a much lower price than RRP, but was served by a rude young male cashier who commented that dolls were creepy.  I refrained from telling him that it was the height of bad manners to pass derogatory comments on customer choice and taste to a customer's face, though it was tempting to suggest that he keep his thoughts to himself (I think he was too young to ever have watched 'Are you being served'!)

Matroshka quickly became a favourite in the doll family and when we travelled to Germany for May half term to the Black Forest for a Fair Organ Festival which takes place every 3 years, my girls decided to take Matroshka, Peter, Matilda and Belle.  The Aussie girls hadn't been on a trip to Europe and for Peter it was like going home, as his original outfit is Bavarian.  We have the matching girl outfit (Gotz Dirndl dress) so this was taken for our new blond girl to wear.

We always stay at a small family run Bed & Breakfast in a little valley above the town when we visit the festival. It has the most glorious views down the valley, a stream running endlessly beside it (which you can hear from the bedrooms at night), serves fresh trout as well as home made Black Forest Gateaux (the chef owns the hotel and it is his speciality) and the service is friendly and welcoming (my girls love it).  My elder daughter is learning German for her GCSEs and practised her elementary German with their warm encouragement.
 Matilda tries to share my younger daughter's ice cream in the hotel
Belle enjoys the glorious sunshiny view from our breakfast table on Saturday morning
Belle did visit the Saturday of the organ festival and Matroshka and Peter came out on the Sunday, but carrying the dolls about town all day is tiring for small arms after a while, so they only came to meals at the hotel after that.
A monkey and barrel organ at the festival - these monkeys are very rude
and squirt water at you if you get too close! 
They are operated via a series of levers and have
various hand movements, some of them rather naughty!

A vintage doll for sale in a side street at the festival
Matroshka and Peter in front of an Alfred Bruder fair organ outside an organ workshop
Matroshka, Peter and my younger daughter outside an organ workshop
Matilda and Belle in their new party dresses in the hotel at dinner time

We stayed a couple of extra days after the festival was over and had a relaxing time exploring Waldkirch a bit more than we usually do.  We came across a delightful toy shop where I held a baby Kathe Kruse doll for the first time and saw several others, they were beautiful and very tempting but I resisted.

 Peter and Matroshka outside our hotel on the second last morning
In their Bavarian outfits outside Gasthof Altersbach, Kandel Pass, Black Forest
Matilda and Belle at breakfast the morning we left
(the clouds were low and heavy with rain)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Miniature books from Barbara Brear

When we were in South Africa for Christmas 2010, we enjoyed a special visit to Barbara Brear who makes incredible miniature books.  As a child growing up in Cape Town I thought I was the only miniaturist around, but have discovered long since I moved to the UK that the miniatures scene in SA is thriving.  Several years ago I came across Barbara's website whilst searching for information about miniatures in SA.  I subsequently saw one of her books in a museum display at Stellenbosch 6 years ago, and I've long wanted to own one (or more) of her 1/12th scale books.

Two years ago I finally decided it was time to invest in a couple of books and sent her an order.  However instead of asking her to post it internationally I asked if it would be okay for my sister to collect my order and bring it to me, as she was visiting the UK.  Barbara was very obliging and very kindly welcomed my sister and my nieces to her home to collect the books.  They had the treat of seeing the beautiful dolls house which Barbara had built during a week long workshop in England and shipped out to SA for completion.  I had seen the house on Barbara's website, and my nieces and sister were very impressed with it.

There was another book which I had my eye on, and having received the 2 beautiful finely crafted books (one 'open book' and one fully printed book), I knew I wanted a third, so I sent Barbara my order for the Victorian Children's poetry book and asked if I could collect it.  She was very welcoming when we arrived and my husband, daughters and I were enthralled by the dolls house and Barbara's description of how she had made many of its contents and of course the amazing books.  It was an enormous privilege to have met Barbara and her husband in their home and to have been made so welcome.  Her work is very inspiring and it has made me long to get working on my dolls house again, however that has had to wait as our new home which we moved into only a week after returning to the UK has needed plenty of decorating (and 9 months on there is still work to do).  My Greenleaf Westville reminds me every day that it is the main incentive for getting the human house done so I can concentrate on the mini house again!  I have finally managed to find the time to photograph my three books, but my photos don't do them justice.

My three Barbara Brear miniature books are:

Rip van Winkle (a South African tale) - a fully printed book
Mrs's Beeton's Cookbook - an 'open' book perfect for the kitchen table
Victorian Children's poetry - At home again - also a fully printed book
 Mrs Beeton, Rip van Winkle and Victorian Children's Poetry
(Mrs Beeton came temporarily mounted on a cocktail stick,
this will be removed)

 Opening Rip van Winkle

 These photos don't do the fine text justice - I couldn't get the camera
to focus closely enough, but the printing is clear and readable

Propping open the Victorian Children's poetry book
using Barbara's business cards

Propping open Rip van Winkle
using Barbara's business cards

Mrs Beeton's cookbook by Barbara Brear

And how about a few photos of my unfinished Greenleaf Westville dolls house: